Psychometric Properties of the Social Desirability Scale-17 with Individuals on Probation and Parole in the United States

By Tatman, Anthony W.; Kreamer, Sally | International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, January-June 2014 | Go to article overview

Psychometric Properties of the Social Desirability Scale-17 with Individuals on Probation and Parole in the United States


Tatman, Anthony W., Kreamer, Sally, International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences


Introduction

Social desirability is the tendency to give biased, distorted, and overly positive self- descriptions that portray oneself in a way that can make a favorable impression on others (Paulhus, 2002). Individuals who present themselves in a socially desirable manner attempt to appear overly virtuous by denying common yet undesirable traits or characteristics, and/or exaggerating uncommon but desirable traits. Social desirability has long been identified as a potential contaminate of self-report information, particularly from individuals on probation or parole where there is often a strong motivation to present oneself in a virtuous way (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960; Tatman & Schouten, 2008; Tatman, Swogger, Love, & Cook, 2009). For example, many convicted offenders have a propensity to paint a highly moral and righteous picture of self as a way to gain favor with their probation/parole officer (PPO), counselor, or evaluator, making a formal assessment of social desirability an important component of any clinical interview or evaluation. Theory driving the use of a measure of social desirability concurrent with clinical interviews or psychological assessments asserts that such instruments provide supporting evidence for the validity of results obtained from simultaneously administered interviews and testing tools (Paulhus, 2002). For example, if a person exhibits elevated response bias on a social desirability scale, the validity of results from his or her simultaneously administered Level of Service Inventory-Revised (Andrews & Bonta, 1995) or pre- sentence investigation interviews should be in question.

The Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSDS; Crowne & Marlowe, 1960) has been identified as arguably the most frequently used and researched measure of social desirability (Beretvas, Meyers, & Leite, 2002). However, a critique of the MCSDS is that the items are rather dated, and potentially incorporate culturally bound referents (Stober, 1999, 2001; Ballard, Crino, & Rubenfeld, 1988). Stober (1999) developed the Social Desirability Scale-17 (SDS-17) in an attempt to address these limitations. The SDS-17 contains items with more contemporary referents and phrasing, while also being free of psychopathological implications. The SDS-17 was originally a 17 item, true-false scale. However, after subsequent research, one item was dropped due to poor internal consistency, resulting in the currently used 16-item version (Stober, 2001). The SDS-17 has since been found to be a statistically reliable and valid measure of social desirability. Stober (1999, 2001) measured the psychometric properties of the SDS-17 with German samples and found it had strong internal consistency, test-retest reliability, as well as concurrent validity with the MCSDS, the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire- Lie Scale (EPQ; Eysenck & Eysenck, 1991), and the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (BIDR; Paulhus, 1994). Stober (1999) also found that the SDS-17 had strong 4 week test- retest reliability when used with a German sample. Blake, Valdiserri, Neuedorf, and Nemeth (2006) expanded on Stober's research by conducting a variety of studies to measure the psychometric properties of the SDS-17 with a United States sample. Blake et al., (2006) found that the SDS-17 had strong internal consistency with United States samples, and showed strong convergent validity with the MCSDS and BIDR.

Although the SDS-17 has been shown to be a valid and reliable tool for measuring social desirability in both German and United States samples, existing research has been on community samples. Psychometric data on the SDS-17 with individuals on probation or parole have yet to be developed. Like any evaluation tool, the SDS-17's validity, and therefore utility, is limited by the availability of norms from the population with which it is administered. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the psychometric properties of the SDS-17 when used with individuals on probation or parole. …

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